2018 MacArthur Genius Grants

What do a painter, an economist, a pastor, a planetary scientist and a dancer have in common? They are all among the recipients of this year’s 25 “genius grants” awarded by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Each winner will receive $625,000 over a five year period. The Chicago-based foundation has awarded these grants each year since 1981 to help further the pursuits of people who have shown creativity and outstanding talent, such as:

Dominique Morisseau,40, playwright

Morisseau is a NYC-based playwright who has taken the theater world by storm with her Detroit-set plays which examine “the intersection of choice and circumstance in works that portray individuals and communities grappling with economic and social change.”

Okwui Okpokwasili, 46, choreographer and performer

Okpokwasili is a NYC-based choreographer whose multidisciplinary pieces “draw viewers into the interior lives of women of color.

Lisa Parks, 51, media scholar

Parks is a media scholar at MIT studying the impact of information technologies as they spread across the globe.

Livia S. Eberlin, 32, analytical chemist

Eberlin is an analytical chemist at the University of Texas who uses mass spectrometry to “differentiate more quickly and accurately diseased from healthy tissues during surgery.”

Deborah Estrin, 58, computer scientist

Estrin is a computer science professor at Cornell Tech who is working to put the “small data” gathered in our digital lives to use in improving, for example, personal health management.

Amy Finklestein, 44, health economist

Finklestein is a MIT health economist doing novel research to show “hidden complexities” in health care and to suggest future fixes.

Gregg Gonsalves, 54, epidemiologist and global health advocate

“Working at the intersection of human rights and public health research and practice to address inequities in global health.”

Clifford Brangwynne, 40, biophysical engineer

Brangwynne is a Princeton biophysical engineer who studies cellular compartmentalization. His work has the potential “to shed light on biochemical malfunctions that can lead to disease.”

Allan Sly, 36, mathematician

Sly is a Princeton mathematician “applying probability theory to resolve long-standing problems in statistical physics and computer science.”

Sarah T. Stewart, 45, planetary scientist

Stewart is a planetary scientist at the University of California at Davis “advancing new theories of how celestial collusions give birth to planets and their natural satellites, such as the Earth and Moon.”

William J. Barber II, 55, pastor

A pastor at Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro, NC, Barber has led “Moral Monday” marches outside the state capitol to advocate for causes including LGBTQ rights and voter enfranchisement.

Titus Kaphar, 42, painter

Kaphar is an “artist whose paintings, sculptures and installations explore the intersection of art, history, and civic agency.”

Johnson, S. (2018, October 4). Here are 2018’s MacArthur ‘genius grant’ winners, including an Illinois legal schoar. Retrieved from https://www.chicagotribune.com/entertainment/ct-ent-macarthur-genius-grant-winners-1005-story.html
The Washington Post (2018, October 4). 2018 MacArthur Foundation ‘genius grant’ winners. Retrieved from https://washingtonpost.com/business/technology/2018-macarthur-foundation-genius-grant-winners

Be Prepared – More Work is Coming!

You picture yourself holding that shiny acceptance letter to the college of your choice.  You think to yourself – the hard part is now over!  But the harsh reality is, your hard work is only just beginning.  Donalyn Miller, keynote speaker at the 2017 Virginia Association of School Librarians Conference, dropped a heavy statistic on her audience.  One of the top reasons students do not graduate on time (or at all) is due to the increased workload colleges expect students to keep pace with.  On average, students are required to read 300 – 800 pages A WEEK, for their coursework.  When is the last time you have read that much per month?  Unfortunately for many of us, it has been a while. Our reading stamina is severely lacking.  So what can be done?

  • Uh, Read. Read everything you come across – road signs, the back of the cereal box, the newspaper (do people still get those?)
  • Reconnect with a good book. If you are not enjoying what you’re reading, odds are your book is going to collect dust on your nightstand.  Find something better.
  • Find a better reading spot. If you’re comfy, you will be more likely to read for longer.  May we suggest the amazing pods in the back of the library?
  • Limit distractions. This seems like a no-brainer, but if reading isn’t your preferred go-to activity it won’t take much to lose your focus.  Put the phone away (or turn off notifications), turn off the television, and read!
  • Build good habits. Just like anything you’ve ever had to learn it takes practice and setting yourself up for success.

Share with us below all the amazing things you are reading (Mrs. Hiltner is keeping tabs on her Twitter @MrsHiltnerReads).  Our anticipated Book Birthday in your Research Library is November 12th!  We can’t wait!


Students in Mrs. Fallon’s Veterinary Science class were on a mission to get the present for the new puppy.  In order to open the final box, they first had to solve puzzles, find clues, and work as a team to “Break Out” of their area.  Clues included everything from 3D printed horse hooves (thanks to Mr. Ajima in the MakerSpace) to virtual puzzles to conditional forms. What a great review!



Makerspaces have been taking on a new and important role in schools and community libraries throughout the country and now there is neuroscience that supports these efforts. So, what is the brain science of making and makerspaces?


The cortical homunculus is how your brain perceives your body, and it turns out it has a distorted view of itself. If you mapped body parts to the areas of your brain that control them, you’d find that the sensations and movements of your hand are controlled by a larger part of your brain than most other parts, such as your arms or legs. The brain has an outsized view of your hands with its fine motor capabilities. It’s not surprising then that anytime students can use their hands the experience becomes more engaging.


There are vast networks of neurons in our brains that number in the billions. They communicate through a mixture of chemical and electrical signals, and we add new connections to these networks when we learn something new. When a new connection is activated, it means that the neurons can trigger signals that become stronger and faster. It basically means that a new skill becomes easier to master the more you practice it. On the flip side, though, if you stop using these connections, the weaker they get and ultimately they can become eliminated entirely.


The prefrontal cortex is a part of the brain that is responsible for executive function. It’s the last part of the brain to finish developing and extends into the early 20s for most people. For young people, having time for unstructured play is important because it allows them the chance to practice making decisions, trying things out, making plans, and other forms of executive function. Therefore, time spent in a makerspace is an opportunity for self-directed exploration and tinkering.


The hippocampus is the part of the brain that directs the formation of long-term memories. It’s part of a larger set of structures known as the limbic system, which is the emotional system. This connection is important because it ties together learning and memory formation as emotional events. So, making is important because it’s fun, and because of this, learning is inevitable.


These images are of your amygdala, which is the part of the brain that deals with fear and intense negative emotions. Although low to moderate levels of activity can enhance your focus and attention and help you perform better, high levels will do the opposite. High levels of activity in the amygdala will reroute the connections in your brain, making you lose executive function and go straight into reactive mode, literally acting without thinking. These high levels will also impede your making any new memory connections in your brain associated with learning.

One of the key moments in the makerspace experience is coming up against failure and not falling back on a strong threat response. It’s realizing that experimentation and mistakes are just part of the process. Students can learn to anticipate and tolerate failures and then learn from them as they move forward in their quest to reach their goals.  A makerspace – with its natural environment of design, test, feedback, and revision – encourages students to develop a growth mindset, whereby failures are just learning experiences on the road to success.

McQuinn, C. (2018, September 25). The brain science of making. Retrieved from https://slj.com/?detailStory=brain-science-of-making
Images are available and free to use from Creative Commons.